5 Steps To A Healthy Pregnancy

Being pregnant can be the most wonderful experience a person will ever have – or it can be agonizing, with morning sickness, headaches, swelling, and medical complications. Each pregnancy is a unique experience for Mom and for her healthcare providers. When a physician cares for an expectant mother, they are actually caring for two patients, and sometimes even more than that.

Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics understands how moms who take care of their health during pregnancy are also taking care of their baby. With his experience in pediatrics, he sees many newborn and infant patients who benefited from having a mother who both followed a board-certified and trusted physician’s guidance and advocated for their concerns from the start.  

While it is impossible to prevent certain complications in pregnancy, doctors continue to emphasize the importance of doing all patients can to mitigate those risks. Dr. Alzein says that when a mother informs him she’s expecting, there are five guidelines he makes sure he shares.

Attend All Prenatal Doctor Appointments

First and foremost, Dr. Alzein recommends that expectant mothers call their OBGYN to set up the first prenatal appointment as soon as an at-home pregnancy test indicates a “Yes.” Just as importantly, moms should attend all scheduled appointments after that. “For an uncomplicated pregnancy with zero concerns,” Dr. Alzein says, “patients can expect to attend 15 prenatal appointments on average. This data gathered at each appointment is considered at each subsequent appointment, forming a complete picture of the pregnancy in case there are complications during labor.”

Equally important as attending these appointments is following all the specific instructions that moms are given. Dr. Alzein advises pregnant women to get all recommended vaccines, including the Whooping Cough vaccine given in the third trimester, the flu shot during flu season, and a COVID-19 vaccine. These vaccinations not only give Mom protection against illness and serious complications, but it also helps protect Baby from unnecessary stress.

As of August 2021, the CDC has recommended pregnant women, or women who are intending to become pregnant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Studies have not found any evidence that suggests the vaccine puts pregnant women or their baby at risk. Studies have proved contracting COVID-19 increases the risk of miscarriage, and the vaccine actually protects against miscarriage. 

If you are vaccine-hesitant, Dr. Alzein encourages you to have an open discussion with your doctor, who will be able to address your concerns and point you to studies that will help answer your questions and reassure you about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccination.

Maintain A Healthy Diet During Pregnancy

A proper diet is essential to ensure Mom and Baby are getting the recommended amount of nutrition that both of your bodies need. As a rule of thumb, Moms should increase daily calorie intake by 340 calories in the second trimester. In the third trimester, Moms should increase calorie intake by 450 calories. Dr. Alzein explains that this increase is about the equivalent of a large glass of milk and half of a sandwich. This calorie increase should be obtained by increasing fruits, vegetables, and protein, healthy foods that do not cause nausea.

In addition to increasing healthy nutrition, pregnant mothers should also eliminate a number of foods that could cause harm to babies. Avoid alcohol, processed, deli, or “lunch” meats and sushi. Red meats should be served well-done. Dr. Alzein also warns expectant mothers not to quit caffeine cold-turkey. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms do not help Mom or Baby, and unless otherwise advised by an OBGYN, a daily cup of coffee is not a danger.

One of the best things patients can do when pregnant is drink water. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises pregnant women to drink anywhere from 64-96 ounces of water per day to “aid digestion and help form the amniotic fluid around the fetus.”

Remember Your Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins ensure that mother and baby are getting all the vitamins necessary, including folic acid. When pregnant, Moms need approximately 400 mg of folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, a birth defect that occurs when the spinal cord, brain, and related structures do not form properly. Even with a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, it is difficult to achieve this amount of folic acid just through daily nutrition. Dr. Alzein also reminds women that folic acid is also an important nutrient for newborns, so continue taking prenatal vitamins when breastfeeding.

Schedule Regular, Moderate Exercise

When Mom exercised regularly prior to pregnancy, they should talk to their healthcare provider about an exercise routine during pregnancy. This is not the time to dramatically change up your exercise routine, take up professional weight lifting or achieve a best time running an ultra-marathon. Usually, continuing your typical exercise routine under your doctor’s supervision is safe.

When Mom has been more sedentary, exercising infrequently, Dr. Alzein recommends you develop the habit of walking regularly. “Start slowly, for about five minutes a day and work up to 30 minutes of activity a day. This activity could be a brisk walk, gardening, or gentle prenatal yoga.”

 Engaging in physical activity will benefit a pregnancy by:

  •         Reducing back pain
  •         Aids in digestion, reducing constipation
  •         May decrease the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery
  •         Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy
  •         Strengthens the heart and blood vessels


Pregnant Mothers Should Listen to Their Intuition

Especially during pregnancy, no one knows a mother’s body better than herself. Mothers know when they have to rest, refuel, and hydrate. Unfortunately, especially when there are other children to take care of, mothers do not have the opportunity to listen to what their bodies are telling them and they try to push through so as not to inconvenience anyone.

Time and time again, Dr. Alzein hears exhausted pregnant mothers try to keep up a pre-pregnancy routine. “One of the first things a mom should do when she confirms a pregnancy is to rethink her schedule and plan for extra help when possible,” Dr. Alzein says.

It’s okay to second-guess the subtle differences between “this is a normal pregnancy pain” and “something isn’t quite right.” Dr. Alzein recognizes that the line between those two statements is pretty thin. “There is nothing wrong with calling your provider whenever you have questions or something new is happening that is causing you concern. 

There is no such thing as a “waste of time” call or appointment when it comes to the health of you and your child. It is better to talk to your provider and give yourself peace of mind that what you are experiencing is normal than to stress, worry, or worse – ignore warning signs that your pregnancy is at risk,” says Dr. Alzein.

Protecting the Health of You and Your Baby

Moms can experience the joy and wonder of pregnancy more fully when they know they are doing everything they can to protect their own health and the health of their baby. While these 5 steps are just the tip of prenatal care, Dr. Alzein’s advice give moms a solid foundation for delivering a healthy baby. 

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